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Is our Junk Mail worth cutting down 10 million Trees?

Mail received in 27 days 4.4 kilos, Junk mail received in 27 days 2.3 kilos

How much junk mail do you get a year? In just under 4 weeks, I got 2.3kilos of unsolicited mail (junk), that’s 31 kilos per year. So, with 27 million dwellings in the UK, that’s 837,000 tonnes of junk paper, or 10 million trees cut down per year just to produce unsolicited junk mail.

The contents of my junk mailbox were;

  • 5 local magazines – 3 holiday brochures – 2 wine promotions
  • Several Medical leaflets (including paying in advance for my funeral!!)
  • 3 charity appeals
  • Political pamphlet – Insurance offers – Property Maintenance offers (including gardening)
  • Supermarket Promotions – Retirement home offers – clothing and furniture brochures

(Does all this sound similar to your junk mail?)

90% of this junk mail went unopened, straight into the paper recycling bin!

Whilst paper is an essential part of our modern life and recyclable paper a key component of food and other packaging, surely there should be some restrictions on the volume of junk paper spewing daily through our letter boxes. If only for the following reasons;  

  • The environmental costs are horrendous.
  • It takes 10,000 US gallons of water to make 1 tonne of junk paper - that’s 8.4 billion US gallons of water for just 1 years production of junk mail, all of which has to be detoxified.
  • Similarly, 1 kilo of junk paper production generates 1 kilo of CO2 emissions – that’s 837,000 tonnes of needless CO2 for production of junk mail, all adding to global warming.
  • Up to 100 different types of chemicals are used to produce this junk paper. Some are highly toxic, including sulphur and chlorine compounds. On occasion the resultant toxic gasses enter the atmosphere.
  • The whole 837,000 tonnes of this junk paper has to be printed, cut, transported and brought to our doors, each step adding to the CO2 generated and increasing global warming.
  • It takes 12 trees to make 1 tonne of junk mail, all of which could be absorbing CO2.

The Paper Industry also uses copious amounts of energy to produce all this junk mail and whilst much of the water is recycled and retreated along with the chemical element, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency whilst the treatments used are able to kill most of the toxicity, they do not eliminate it entirely. When this occurs, the resultant effluent discharges are toxic and can be deadly to aquatic life.  

Anyone who thinks the 870,000 tonnes junk mail figure looks exaggerated, I have deliberately ignored the junk mail sent to 4 million UK businesses, 2,265 LA and councils, 166,000 charities, 413 Government Agencies, etc. In truth the total of junk mail sent out is nearer 1 million tonnes.


It is interesting that ‘single use plastics’ are constantly vilified by the media and the, so called, Environmental Groups (Green Peace, Helen McCarthy, A Plastic Soup, Plastic Planet). However, at least these ‘single-use plastics’ have fulfilled a useful task, such as the protection and preservation of food prior to their disposal. The majority of junk mail serves no such purpose as the recipient has no say in the content. Surely legislation is required to ensure mail is sent only to those people who have agreed to be on the relevant mailing list. This would save millions of £ pounds, millions of trees, millions of tonnes of CO2 and make a significant contribution to reducing global warming.

None of the Environmental groups noted takes the slightest interest (to my knowledge) in campaigning to get this mountain of unnecessary environmental waste reduced. This suggests they have an ulterior motive in their anti-plastic campaigning. Could it be that they could not get the same level of subscriptions or media attention if they focussed on simply eliminating junk mail and the paper involved in this wasteful use of the Earth’s resources. In fact, they would gain a more positive environmental benefit from eliminating junk mail than ‘single-use plastic!’.

Not surprisingly, there were just 15g of plastic wrap in the whole 4.4 kilos of post (Investors Chronicle wrapping) all the other subscription magazines (except Packaging News) came in large paper envelopes which simply add to the waste created. Yet it is this 15g on which these environmental pressure groups focus ignoring the remainder of this wasteful use of the Earth’s resources.  


15g plastic

I have no doubt that someone will argue that all this junk paper is recyclable. Recycling junk mail simply wastes more energy, more water, more chemicals and generates more CO2, adding to more global warming. Wouldn’t we be better simply banning all unsolicited mail and saving at least some of the 10 million trees currently destroyed in its manufacture.

As ever, I would welcome your views on any of the items raised, and why not join me on LinkedIn for more regular updates?



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